New Testament: 1 Cor 13:1-13
Old Testament: Exodus 2:23-3:15
Gospel: Mark 9:14-29
Psalms: 107:33-43, 108:1-6 (7-13), 33
At first I thought the usual thoughts when reading, “Love is patient, love is kind, it is not jealous…” This passage is commonly used as the reading at weddings or during the renewal of vows. Then I reflected on the final verse: “…So faith, hope, love remain, these three, but the greatest of these is love.” I believe that not only is love the greatest of these, it is the most difficult of these. I began to think about it in the context of parental love.
Recently my daughter called me at work to tell me the following story involving her five-year-old son.
“Mom, I can’t believe it! Your words just came right out of my mouth this morning. Joseph was in trouble, so I sent him upstairs for a time out. He wheeled around and said, ‘You make me mad, and you are not my friend!’ And I said, ‘You are right. I am not your friend. I am something much more important than that. I am your mother.’” I laughed and congratulated her on a job well done.
Then we recalled a time when she, her brother, and I were having dinner and he wanted to go with some friends to an event in Georgetown. He was 16, and after thinking it over, I said, “Sorry, but no.” He was angry and said “Brendan’s mom is letting him go,” thinking that would sway me. I looked him in the eye and told him that I must love him more because the answer was still no. He replied, “Can’t you just love me a little less?” I responded, “You are my heart of hearts, it is impossible for me to love you less. I only love you more every day.” He sat quietly for a few moments and then said, “Mom, you are the last of a dying breed.” And we all laughed together.
It is so hard not to be your child’s friend first, but to be the parent. I have recently noticed that so many parents (family and friends) are struggling with this issue. They tell me that things are different now, that things are not the same as when I was a parent, that the world is a changed place, etc. My answer to them, though, is that things are not different. Things were just as hard for my generation and even for the one before that. To lovingly guide your children, to lovingly teach your children, never has been and is never going to be easy.
I learned that, in the end, if you remain the responsible grown up, no matter how much tough love you have to use, you will one day get to be friends with your children. My thirty-something-year-old kids are now my best friends.